A time comes in the life of a drug user when their paradigm must be replaced. During this time is a short period where the user questions their sanity. For each person this process leads to different results. I can only speak about my own journey.
For me this time came at the beginning of my drug career. Just after I’d finished the graduate level Cinema-Television Production Program at USC. Left worse for wear after its strict discipline and my nutty penchant for finishing school in a time that beats any historical records for completion of whatever program I’m enrolled in. A three year master’s program shaved down to two and change. During these nickel and penny months, these three before the work was done and five before the diploma declaring me a Master of Fine Arts, this is when I took up drugs in earnest, diligently. Alone.
At the end of this time I found myself on a trip to Northern California with my parents, on a beach I’d driven to in a borrowed car, with a cannabis habit, on triangle-shaped pills sold as MDMA, Mescaline, and ? mixed together, but obviously dextromethorphan of which I, under the influence, took all three of - perhaps hoping they would somehow magically form a trinity that would be Ecstasy.
After gratefully puking up the overdose of said I made a series of unbelievably detached and increasingly self-destructive choices that led to me enlisting the help of a random well-built stranger, and convincing him to leave his young children alone to help me across a super-strong tide.
During this process, he asked me a series of questions to ascertain my sanity. This was the ultimate moment in my arc – here I was, doubting my sanity, without enough sober instances to create any kind of continuity bridge for my life. Now there was a stranger here, also questioning my sanity, and with each odd thing that came out of my mouth his look took on a deeper level of compassionate scrutiny. According to him, I must be special. And there was nothing I could say to change that.
After crossing the inlet once again, the same one signs claim had taken the lives of three adults the week before, with the same stranger’s help (well how was I supposed to get back?), I made it to a shady spot and sobered up enough to think that I could drive. I managed. I went to bed for fifteen hours and woke with the kind of sobriety that makes me pray to God with thanks to be alive and is really better than any drug.
And I return home, and my friend J visits. Thank you J. If you had any idea how it feels… just at the time when I believed I was craziest, you said “well, if she’s doing it, it’s gotta be good, I’ll do it too”. And thus justified my actions. My sanity was restored. You believed in me and made the ultimate leap, trusted me to bring you sanely across. And it was time for me to begin doing drugs with other people.
And good lord, you did mushrooms... then a month later MDMA, LSD, weed, and cocaine…. All in one weekend! And then that pharmaceutical opium, and then San Pedro tea and pot brownies soon after… you did it all, you did it all with me. I wouldn’t, couldn’t have done it without you, and you wouldn’t, couldn’t have done it without me. And finally, DMT.
Your attitude was more diligent than mine, I guess it’s always that way with the younger brother. Just as hard for you to get there, you took steep doses along with me and we rose together. It’s no mistake that I taught you to drive, this is the dynamic we have. You are not the kind of guy that goes along for the ride, so it’s extra special that you got in the car with me.
Of course you had your insanity, your equivalent. The herbal psychedelics you bought off of the internet. You felt so poisoned you went to the emergency room. In addition, you had a pipe and weed in your pocket, which thankfully they took away from you and let you go. Still – this was your equivalent of my insanity. I would never have done your version, and you would never have done mine. I only hope that knowing about mine made you feel less alone in yours.
We hadn’t done drugs together in years until my 30th birthday when we shared a secret dose of LSD and enjoyed 5 different kinds of herb and some whippets too at my 24 hour party. As always, there you were, riding sidecar to my drug whims. By this time my attitude around drugs had soured, and you had married and were planning a future – but it was still the best birthday gift ever.
Turns out, we’re both sane, sane by our counts, sane by objective accounts. We’re saner for the experiences – and more successful. Sane most of all for having stopped, for having developed a very healthy moderation and different priorities within a healthy and reasonable amount of time. Enough time to experience the slings and highs, but not enough to unlock too many doors we can’t plant a guard in front of. Sane most of all for never giving up the drugs, for integrating them into this lifelong quest.
And so you, my ground, my anchor, my brother: I love you and I toast to our shared sanity and semi-sobriety! Thank you.